John McCain, Air Quotes, and Abortion.

Ever since John McCain used air quotes to mock the "health of the Mother" as being, in his view, an "extreme pro-abortion stance", womens' groups, political pundits and bloggers have been on fire with discussion. Even though there is no such thing as a "pro-abortion" stance (I don't know about you, but I haven't seen too many activists in my area running around shouting at pregnant women to just terminate already!); even though only 1.4% of abortions are performed after 21 weeks, making the late term abortion a rarity and thus not much of a useful talking point, John McCain and his air quotes have still left the blogosphere, the media, and women in general buzzing.

The air quotes prove to me one thing: That the rhetoric war around abortion has gotten so advanced, especially the anti-abortion rhetoric, that people don't even see the issue they're talking about anymore. It's simply words that we hurl at each other now, words that polarize, that on one side demonize women as militant feminists who just want to sleep around willy nilly with no consequences and kill their babies anytime for any old reason, and on the other side that classes those against abortion as religious, deceptive wingnuts who insist they know better what Women should do with their bodies than the women themselves, who place the life of the fetus above the life of the woman at all costs.

What everyone is forgetting in this war on words is that abortion itself is not the problem. Abortion is the symptom. Fix the disease, and this symptom will resolve itself.

The disease is the insistence on pushing polices that continue to marginalize women.

The disease is refusing funding to groups that educate and empower girls and women to know exactly what their bodies are capable of from the time they're capable of doing it, or to teach them to pursue birth control because of ideology, making them more likely to find themselves with an unwanted pregnancy.

The disease is attempting to deny women access to their legal right to birth control, leaving them with less control over their own bodies and reproduction.

The disease is refusing to institute reasonable maternity leave policies to protect women's jobs while they give birth and care for their child, leaving women with babies and nobody to care for them.

The disease is the failure to facilitate adequate, affordable health care coverage that allows women to have the means to pay the thousands of dollars in medical bills it will take to be pregnant and give birth to a child in America.

The disease is the stigma we slap on unwed mothers as having bad judgment, as being sluts and easy and stupid, as having ruined their lives, while at the same time letting unwed fathers off the hook, making women ashamed of pregnancy instead of celebrating it.

The disease is the bizarre juxtaposition where people insist that having children is a "lifestyle choice" on one hand while on the other hand insisting that "life begins at conception" and that "childbirth is sacred", thus polarizing the two mentalities and leaving women caught in the middle.

The disease is paying women less than men for working the same jobs, thus making them less able to financially manage having a family.

Let me be clear. I would love to live in a world where abortion was never necessary, where women never found themselves pregnant and frightened and alone and having no idea where they're going to pay for their own grocery bills, let alone pay for a child. I would love to live in a world where a pregnancy is always celebrated, where a child is always welcomed and wanted and loved, where the mother isn't stigmatized and marginalized and left to fend for herself by the same people who insist her child's life is more important than hers. I would love to live in a world where every child knew exactly what their body was capable of from the moment it became capable of doing it, instead of making those children feel ashamed of their bodies and unable or unwilling to have tough conversations about the responsibilities of sexuality and birth control when they are faced with the situation.

If we did these things, if we simply said "let's change. We are going to give women - and men - the tools to control their own bodies, whether it's education, whether it's empowerment, whether it's just a plain old rubber condom" - something would change.

If we give women better choices before they face the choice of abortion, the choice wouldn't have to be made in the first place.

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